As Projects Go

Back in April, I committed to two garden projects this season. I was enthusiastic at the time, as one often is when projects are simply ideas in your head.

Of course, the first project seemed like more fun: replace the long-in-the-tooth garden swing with a new glider. Done!

The second project involved repairing or replacing the top of my garden bench.

I started in the lumber aisle of our local big-box store, pretending that I wasn’t entirely out of my league. I looked at planks of wood and pre-cut surfaces but nothing seemed quite right. Further, the cost and availability of lumbar has been challenging due to COVID-related supply chain issues. Ok, so that’s another excuse for feeling overwhelmed by it all. I mean how expensive can it be to buy a small section of wood?

The existing garden bench boards are warped, but removing them further jeopardizes the sturdiness of the entire unit. I would need to replace the boards or attach something on top of them, followed by more sanding and paint. Neither of those projects worked out well the last time, so my reluctance is rooted in that experience.

In the end, I went in a completely different direction, and I’m pleased with the results. I ordered a plexiglass top from a local place called Tap Plastic. The acrylic is available in a variety of thicknesses, depending on need. I ordered a product called “green glass,” which mimics the real deal for a fraction of the cost. They created this custom-made acrylic top for less than a hundred dollars.

I made a pattern to include the surface and the small recessed area at the back. The new plexiglass top slides into the notched area, helping keep it in place.

You can see the rounded corners and the notched extension in the above photo.

I can change the look by swapping out table runners or placemats. The surface wipes clean with a damp cloth which is another plus over the wood surface. I hope it lasts for years.

This striped cloth draped on the bench is a gift from my friend Rosie. She brought it home with her from a trip to Africa a few years ago. I searched for the proper term but gave up. I found many sources and suggestions, including Mud cloth, Kente cloth, Kantha cloth, and simply “head tie.” I don’t want to attribute it to something it’s not. The fabric is soft and vibrant with a lovely drape.

The gorgeous birdhouse is hand-crafted by my friend, Laura. She started her own business a few years ago, making one-of-a-kind ceramic birdhouses in Paradise, California. I don’t have the heart to hang it on a branch for fear of breaking it in a strong wind, so I have it on the bench instead. Both gifts are lovely reminders of dear friends.

The rest of the garden is doing okay, though some plants are showing stress from reduced watering and heat. Only one of the three tomato plants produced decent fruit. The other two plants are stunted, even though we planted them in rich soil. So it goes with gardening.

That said, I count myself lucky to have many established native plants. They thrive in this climate and won’t bothered by a lack of water.

Meanwhile, I’m dreaming of rain.

Thirty Days in the Garden: A Glider Debut

Are you ready for the big reveal?

The garden glider is open for business. I inadvertently included a sneak peek on Sunday, but now it’s official.

The glider came with a seat cushion which is thankfully removable. I picked up a couple of toss pillows at Target, perfect for an afternoon nap. The cushions are a bland grey, but they’re covered in that outdoor material the squirrels abhor.

I made that up. They probably love the pillow fabric, but for now we’ll pretend otherwise.

Gliders, unlike swings, glide back and forth instead of arching in a curve. I had a chair glider when I nursed both of my babies and loved it. Gliders have a smaller footprint than a rocker, so that’s also a plus.

The area under the half-umbrella looks and feels great. We ordered a replacement cover for the umbrella last year, but due to COVID, it took months for it to arrive. The umbrella fit is looser than the old one, but nothing can be done for it now. I like the way the green blends into the garden. The umbrella collects debris from the orange tree, so the darker color will help disguise the dirt.

With the glider assembled and in place and the new umbrella cover overhead, I changed my mind about the small blue tables. I’m using a round table instead. I’m going to paint the top of the blue tables with chalk paint, but I’ll leave the legs the faded blue. I’ve moved the tables close to the hose bib, where I’ll use them for my assorted watering cans.

Here’s what the area looked like before with the tattered umbrella and swing.

Here’s what it looks like now:

I like the cleaner lines, the color of the wood, the arched back, and the extra space around the glider. The swing legs took up a lot of room. It’s now easier to walk around the glider to rake leaves from the gravel.

I’m so pleased with the way it all came together.

As for the squirrels, I’ve presented an offering behind the glider. I hope it does the trick.

Thirty Days in the Garden: Flat Pack Glider

The garden glider is here!

Some assembly required

Yesterday I mentioned replacing our garden swing with a glider, and today it arrived. Wow, that seemed fast. I received the shipping notification while downtown volunteering, and I could hardly wait to get home.

When I got here, Mike had already disassembled the old swing. It sat in a pile near the driveway.

I raced into the back yard picturing a fully assembled glider. Only then did I realize the some-assembly-required part of the deal. The new glider arrived in a flat cardboard box.

Flat pack glider

I should know better. Unless it’s a couch or an appliance, there is almost always some assembly required.

We moved the stacked pieces into place and removed the packaging. Straight out to the box, we realized one of the glider arms had been pulled away from its screws. Seeing the bent screws and shredded wood left me crestfallen.

Damaged glider arm

Mike is Mr. Fix it, so when I suggested we call and request a replacement part, he assured me he could make it work. While I attached the seat to the back, he pulled out the damaged screws and set about the repair. The wood glue in his workbench is past its usefulness date, so that meant a trip to the hardware store.

Mike applying wood glue to broken glider arm

We had a quick dinner, and then Mike glued and reassembled the glider’s arm. It needs two hours to cure, so it’s resting against the kitchen counter under a couple of boxes of sparkling water.

Waiting for the glue to dry and set

We’ll be back at it on Sunday. I’ll share more photos then.

Happy weekend! May your days be assembly-free.

Three Garden Projects, All in a Row

Hurray for Nick Timmermann!  Nick completed all three garden projects for me over the past two days.

You may remember that I managed to get most of the dead hardenbergia vine pulled, but had to stop at the roots. The same went for my attempt at removing the grass in the sidewalk strip. My back and neck can no longer handle that kind of heavy digging.

The third project on the list was to remove the depleted lavender (thanks to an early frost) and replace it with Mexican Bush Sage. I went to four nurseries and garden centers over the past two weeks looking for the plants without success.  Central Wholesale Nursery said they were seeing a shortage of plants. At the start of the recession, growers reduced production.  Now that people are buying again, they’re having trouble keeping up with the demand. Nick went back this week and they just got them in!

I’ve been waiting to get the front garden rehabbed before our Little Free Library dedication. Now I can move ahead.

Here’s Nick’s handy work, starting with my attempt at digging up the grass, left, and the completed garden strip, upper right:

Curb garden

Colorful pebbles, stepping-stones and thyme replace the 18-year-old, water-guzzling lawn

I’m trying to reduce my water use and getting rid of the lawn in the sidewalk strip was a first step. We replaced it with tiny pebbles and drought tolerant thyme, capping off several sprinkler heads in the process.

sage replaces lavender

Out with the old, in with the new

wooly thyme

Wooly thyme planted between the rocks

Colored pebbles and slate stepping stones

Colored pebbles and slate stepping-stones

I loved the lavender and was sorry to see it go. That said, here was another opportunity to reduce water usage. The Mexican Bush Sage prefers dry conditions and needs almost no water once established. These plants will fill the space within a season. Meanwhile, I’ll put in some sunflower seeds and mulch and see if I can outsmart the squirrels.

As the daffodils slowly fade, the perennials are taking over.  I’m loving all that color.  Here are a few closeups:

red buckwheat

Red Buckwheat

snapdragons and daffodils

Snapdragons and daffodils


Scabiosa (it’s prettier than it sounds)

I ♥ flowers. Don’t you?

About That Grass

Three weeks ago I hauled out my shovel and my grubs and got to work digging up the grass.  Not all the grass, but a small swath surrounding the curb garden and the Chinese Pistache. Baby steps.

The plan is to replace it with drought-tolerant ground cover or small paving stones.  Removing the grass is also better for the tree. Most trees need very little water once established. Ours is no exception.

This is my attempt to reduce the ‘footprint’ of the lawn in our parched corner of the world.  We re-landscaped our front yard about three years ago, in part to install a ramp.  My sister, who struggles with MS, could barely make it over the threshold of our home.  We removed the original lawn, put in a deck and the ramp, then rounded things out with shrubs…and more grass.  Although the square footage is less, I still find myself feeling a bit guilty offering a drink to a thirsty lawn during a drought.

Any way, back to the shovel and grubs. I worked for an hour and this is all I have to show for it.

removing lawn

Digging up some lawn

It was much harder than I thought it would be.  I don’t have the tools (nor the spine) to complete it.  I feel a bit defeated by it all, as this was my idea, and I really want to see it through. I’m having to face the challenges of aging joints, old injuries and the reality that I’m not in my twenties any more…or thirties…and so on.

Plan B is to hire some help.  I have three projects that need more strength then I can muster:

  • removing a thick, dead vine,
  • replacing what’s left of the lavender, and
  • getting rid of the swath of grass.

One of our beloved Hardenbergia died last year.  It used to cover the entire fence in the spring and summer with stunning purple blooms.  I pruned it back each year, and it returned bigger and brighter than ever…and then it didn’t.  I waited an entire year, because I hate giving up on plants.  Not the tiniest sign of life.  It needs to go.

lavender near deck

Lavender lines the deck

The lavender is dwindling, too, for reasons unknown.  We started with five plants lining the deck.  Four thrived, one struggled and finally died.  Last fall, a second one died and then the frost hit.  They’re all looking pretty sad.  I figured it was a good time to take them out and replace them with drought-tolerant Salvia (Mexican Bush Sage).  Saliva is also a beautiful purple, and it attracts hummingbirds and bees.  Once established, it doesn’t need any water!  You can’t beat that.

Those are my big projects for the season, and I can’t do any of them myself. I’m struggling with that, but at the same time need to face this reality and get on with it. My sister helps me keep it all in perspective.

Aging is not for the faint of heart.